Vitruvian Man: da Vinci's study of body proportions

Leonardo da Vinci said, “Man is the model of the world.” The Vitruvian Man by da Vinci is a study of the proportions present in the human body. The Golden Ratio or Divine Proportion is ubiquitous throughout the Vitruvian Man. A ratio is a relationship expressed as a fraction such as 1.618:1 or 1.618/1 |————————————|———————-|

1.618 1


1.618:1 is a proportion that displays balance. We wanted to find it on our human body. First, get a measuring tape and a calculator. It doesn’t matter if you do this with inches or centimeters. However, centimeters and millimeters may be more accurate when you are measuring small parts of the body like your hand bones.


The objective this week is to find these measurements in your parents, siblings, friends, etc.


1. Measure your height in centimeters or inches (remember, be consistent: if you used cm for one measurement, use cm for the other measurement; the same goes for inches). Now measure the distance from your foot to navel (belly button).

 a) Height: ______________


b) Foot to Navel: _________


c) Divide a/b*: ____________  


*if your measurements are accurate, this should yield a number close to the golden ratio of 1.618.


2. Now measure the distance from your navel to your head (you can also subtract b from a above)


a) Foot to Navel:   _________________


b) Navel to Head: _________________


c) Divide a/b: _____________________


3. Now measure from your chin to the bridge of your nose (between your eyes) and from that point to the top of your head.


a) Chin to Bridge of Nose: ___________


b) Bridge of Nose to Top of Head: _____


c) Divide a/b: _____________________


4. Now measure your a) proximal phalanx, your b) middle phalanx and your c) distal phalanx


a) proximal phalanx (largest finger knuckle):   ____________


b) middle phalanx (middle finger knuckle):  ______________


c) distal phalanx (smallest  finger knuckle): _________________


Divide a/b (proximal/middle): _____________


Divide b/c (middle/distal): ________________


5. Another golden ratio is found by dividing the chin to mouth by the mouth to nose.

a) Chin to Mouth: ______________


b)   Mouth to Nose: ________________


6. A man’s height is equal to his arm span. 


a) Height: ____________


b) Arm Span: _______________


7. 4 Fingers = 1 Palm = _________________

8. 6 Palms = 1 Cubit (length from the elbow to fingertip) = _____________


9. 4 Cubits = Height of a man


Cubit:______ X 4 = Height _______


1 Cubit = Sole of foot to knee


1 Cubit = Knee to mid-section


1 Cubit = Mid-section to chest


1 Cubit = Chest to top of head


1 Cubit = Width of shoulders


10. If you divide a person’s step length by their height, you get between .41 and .45. So if you divide a person’s step length by .43, you get their height within two inches.


a) Step Length: ____________________


b) Height: ______________________


c)   Divide a/b: ______________________


d)   Divide a/.43 = height ______________


11. The length of the foot is equal to 1/7th of a man’s height.


  1. Length of Foot: _______________ 


  1. Height: ______________________


  1. Length of Foot in a x 7 = Height


12. The upper arm is equal to 1/8th of a man’s height, or half a cubit.


a) Upper Arm: _______________


b) Height: ___________________


c)   Upper Arm a x 8 = Height


Square formed by the Vitruvian Man


In classical history, the square represents the physical world.


The square also represents the four wind directions, north, east, south, and west.


The square also represents the four elements: Earth, water, wind, and fire.


In classical history, the circle represents the spiritual world and motion.

The legs form the shape of an equilateral triangle.


The exact center of the body is the navel.


The fingers meet the intersection of the circle and square.


The attached pdf provides screen shots of da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man showing each of the measurement relationships above.










Vitruvian_Man_--_Leonardo_da_Vinci.pdf1.42 MB